Minister Chan Chun Sing with 500 public officers at the Istana Reception hosted by President Halimah Yacob (Photo: Chan Chun Sing's Facebook page)

Are Singaporeans obliged to be grateful to public servants?

by Augustine Low

Minister Chan Chun Sing ended his speech to public servants yesterday by urging them to not be disheartened if people fail to show appreciation.

“I know sometimes it may be discouraging, and it might feel like not many appreciate what you have to go through,” he said.

The Minister seemed to be making the point that public servants go through hardship and Singaporeans are therefore duty bound to show their gratitude.

What hardship do they endure?

Are they not doing what other gainfully employed Singaporeans do – an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay?

It is rather odd – and outmoded – to adopt the stand that those in public service would feel discouraged if Singaporeans do not show appreciation to them.

Furthermore, how are Singaporeans expected to show appreciation? We pay for services, we make relevant requests in the course of interaction, we say ‘thank you’ if necessary. What other forms of appreciation are there for Singaporeans to embrace?

If anything, it was the government which did a disservice to teachers – one of the most important categories of public servants – when it implemented season parking charges. It is just the sort of thing to demoralise and dishearten the very ones who deserve special consideration.

Teachers work long hours beyond the standard working day. Public sentiment is that they deserve better than to be made to pay for parking.

So when Chan Chun Sing talks about showing gratitude to public servants, he ought to remember that the government has to take the lead because it sets the direction and implements the policies.

Having given teachers a slap in the face by making them pay for parking, he now turns around and asks public servants not to be discouraged if people do not show appreciation.

The Minister is once again trying to be too clever by half. Passing the buck to Singaporeans is just not cool and not the right thing to do.